Delhi violence: Police apathy and BJP’s connivance

During 24 to 25 February 2020, 38 Muslims were shot dead (India Today, and The Print dated February 28, 2020, and Hindustan Times dated 27 February 2020). Those attacking peaceful protesters against Citizenship Amendment Act used bludgeons, catapults, daggers, and swords besides weapons smuggled from other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh (Dhar, Khargaon, Badwani and Khandwa). The dead and injured had marks of gun shots, besides tell-tale injuries by blunt objects (sharp blades, stones, and drill-bits).  Those arrested `confessed that they bought one weapon for Rs 3,000 to 70000 and sold it later for as much as Rs.  35000 to 40000.  Pistols `.32 bore, 9 mm, and .315 were the ‘most preferred’.

Police remained listless to cache of arms being collected for several months. The organised violence reflected that the attackers had received military training at Hindutva academies.

Private Hindutva military academies in India: In a shocking report, India Today dated December 28, 2017 reported that `At least 100 private military training academies are currently operating in Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Pune districts. They train both men and women. Most of them are run by retired junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and ex-servicemen’, affiliated with Hindu fanatic orgnisations. They molest women trainees with impunity. At Bhonsla Military School; four girls were raped by the trainer. Earlier,   `Thane (Maharashtra) police had arrested serving soldiers in Nagpur, and Bombay Engineering Group and Centre at Kirkee in 2017 [under BJP’s rule] for their involvement in a similar racket’. Locations mentioned in the report are throbbing modern cities. For instance, Pune, formerly spelled Poona (1857–1978), is the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra, after Mumbai. It is the ninth most populous city in the country with an estimated population of 3.13 million. Similarly, Thane is a part of Mumbai Metropolitan Region. BJP MLA Narendra Mehta is imparting military training to students at his school at Mira, Maharashtra (India Today June2, 2019).

The ruling BJP remained listless to demand by Maharashtra Sainik Welfare Department, MSWD (akin to Pakistan’s Armed Service Board) that `the government must introduce an apt regulatory mechanism to curb instances of cheating and other malpractices by private military training centres’. In an isolated joint raid by India’s military intelligence and `in Kolhapur and  Lt Col R R Jadhav, deputy director of MSWD demanded `the government  should delegate power to either the district sainik welfare officers or the tehsildars to carry out a monthly inspection of these academies’. The academies `charge between Rs50, 000 and Rs one lakh’, and many of their recruits `have been successfully recruited in the army’. A senior army officer said. `If someone pays money to get recruited, he tends to get involved in illegal practices at the unit level’ to recover his expenditure.

Hindu fanatics have been imparting live fire-arm training not only in private academies in Maharashtra, but also in Hindutva-influenced schools in other states. The headmaster of a Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)-run school Hindu Vidyalaya, Mohima Ranjan Mondal complained to the police that Bajrang Dal, youth wing of VHP, was forcibly training teenagers `to load, unload and take aim with guns’. Disgusted at police apathy, he met education minister.

In another complaint he alleged that ` he is facing death threats for objecting to the training without his permission’. With BJP’s connivance, fanatic Hindus is being trained in Nazi’s SS-type training. According to Hindustan Times dated Jun 22, 2019, RSS’s Bengali mouthpiece, Swastika took out a victory route march (path-sanchalan) at Beldanga in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. Such marches led to subsequent violence. In post-Modi 2.0 India, militant Hindus exploit trivial events to lynch Muslims. On June 30, 2019, a Hindu and a Muslim quarreled about parking of a bike. The Hindu approached local Bajrang Dal VHP and Shiv Sena outfits. He claimed that Muslims had `vandalised Durga mandir’ in Houze-Qazi area. On July 2, 2019, The Hindus took out processions; vandalizing Muslims’ shops and chanting jai shri ram slogans. In apology, `Muslim residents of Hauz Qazi organised a procession carrying placards and shouting slogans for peace: “Nafrat nahi, aman chahiye (We want peace, not hate), Manmutav khatm karo, aapas me gale milo (Put an end to the disagreement, hug each other), Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai (Hindus and Muslims are brothers), and “Aman aur karobar chahiye (we want peace and business).” They pleaded to Hindus that livelihood is more important than religion. Police investigation confirmed that the agitation was a ploy by “a couple of property builders who wanted to usurp this region (Gali Durga Mandir). Unable to take over Durga Gali as it had a temple, they fomented anti-Muslim  vandalism. According to Hate Crime Watch (factchecker.in dated July4, 2019) `this is the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded in the national capital territory of Delhi _ the eighth most violent state for such violence, a FactChecker database that tracks these crimes from 2009 to-date.

No lesson learnt from past riots: Efforts have been made in the past to ferret out causes of communal riots in India.  Past inquiry reports into major riots (Delhi 1984, Bhagalpur 1989 and Ayodhya 1992) lament poor governance in preventing or controlling the riots, and prosecuting the rioters.  Those having academic interest in details may refer to analysis by V. N. Rai, N. C. Saxena, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Asia, besides reports of the Commissions of Inquiry into Disturbance at Bhiwandi (1970), Tellicherry (1971), and Jamshedpur (1979). For further insights, one may look into reports of seminars, titled “State Protected Lawlessness from Ayodhya to Bombay” and Communal Riots and the Role of Law Enforcement Agencies”, convened at Bombay by Iqbal A. Ansari and Dr Asghar Ali (founder secretary general of Minorities’ Council of India).

It appears that the past studies are post-mortem reports.  They do not try to determine statistical correlation between cause (economic, political or communal), issues and places of riots to formulate a testable hypothesis about probable causes and venues of riots in future.  Lack of futuristic orientation or reliable data may have been fetters to the researchers’ feet.

In the past, fanatic Hindus has started riots to snatch or destroy well-to-do Muslims’ properties.  The economic motive behind starting the riots is the foremost in Hindus’ minds.  Let us look into the past trend of riots, and the issues on which they were started.

Expected trends

Hindutva. Anti-Muslim violence in India has risen pari passu with upsurge in Hindutva.  The leading politicians side with the Hindu extremists for myopic electoral gains.  Even Congress leaders have been distributing tridents on plea that their party’s policy is no bar on it.  In 1991, India’s thent home minister undertook Rath Yatra (chariot journey) from a Hindu temple in Gujarat to Ram Janam Bhoomi  (birth place of Hindu god Ram).  That symbolic journey engendered Hindutva upsurge, which resulted in destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992.  Subsequently, the BJP, then a marginal group with only two seats in Indian parliament witnessed the party’s cataclysmic rise into a ruling party, as of now.

Hindutva influence has permeated not only into the bureaucracy but also in armed forces, security agencies as also the judiciary. Hindutva influence on Indian armed forces became manifest in the national elections of 1991 when India’s top 25 ex-military officers joined the BJP. Stephen P Cohen in “The Indian Army” says that India’s  three wars with Pakistan contributed to the communalisation of her armed forces, as exemplified by an Indian general’s characterisation of Indo-Pakistan wars as ‘communal riots with armour’. In the 1990s, India’s top 25 generals joined the BJP.

To preclude police brutality who acts in unison with mobsters, Khushwant Singh suggested in 1969 drafting a substantial number of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians and Parsis into the Indian police forces.  Police force of Punjab and Haryana should be non-Sikh, and that of Kashmir being non-Muslim, so on.

Battle cries used in the army are Ha Har Maahadev (Shivaji’s slogan), Bajrang Bali ki Jai, Bol Javala Man ki Jai.   Hindu mobs attacking the Muslims also use the same slogans.  How could the army jawans control the mob chanting the same slogans?

The Ayodhya case judges ordered excavation of the site in disregard of res judicata principles.  Possession is nine-point ownership. Existence of Babri Masjid for centuries debars the Hindus from invoking their right to ownership of the site under Limitation Act, enshrining   the principle `equity helps the vigilant, not the indolent’.

Professor M. Mohan of Delhi University is of the view that ”Increasing intolerance among the Hindu fundamentalist organisations, which pose a grave threat to democracy, are an indication of the rise of fascist forces in India.  Professor Kanti Bajpai of Jawaharlal Nehru University agreed, “The rise of right –wing politics in India is far more advanced and violent than in Austria”.

The Economist: World in 2003 (page 77) states, ‘…nothing so pleases as burning of a few Muslims, the prospects of war with Pakistan and revenge for Muslim invasion of India many centuries ago’. 

Gujarat state has lifted the ban on government employees’ becoming members of RSS.  Uttar Pradesh state’s legislature has placed restrictions on building and use of places of worship. After approval of the parliamentary committee, Savarkar’s portrait has been hung in Indian parliament.  Savarkar thus stands resurrected as a hero of the freedom movement.  Savarkar wanted India for the Hindus only.

The riots in the 1990s (e.g. destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992) are markedly different from those in pre-1990s period (e.g., 1948 Hyderabad riots against takeover by India). The pre-1990s pogroms affected mainly slum-dwelling poor Muslims. But, the riots in 1990s hit poor and rich Muslims alike.  The stimulating motive was to pauperize the affluent Muslims by looting away their life-long earnings.  The affluent and influential Hindus no longer tried to play the role of mediators (unlike the case of previous riots in some industrial cities).

In the Hyderabad riots of 1990, Indian cricketer Azharuddin was attacked in his hometown.  During January 1993, Mrs. Rahi Masum Raza, wife of script-writer of TV-series Mahabharata fled uptown Bombay for refuge in Bhendi Bazar.  In 1991, Muslim professors of Delhi University ran away from their houses to seek safety elsewhere. There are countless other instances of harassment of Muslim prodigies like Dilip Kumar, Saira Bano, Shabana Azmi, Farah Khan, and Ali Sardar Jaafri (poet with Padma Shri award) who was asked by the police to prove his nationality.

From the recent trends, it is obvious that future riots are more likely to take place in localities where the Muslims are economically competitive and affluent.  Muslim-owned industrial and business establishments will be the targets. 

In fact, Nehru had foreseen this changing pattern of riots, as reflected in his letter September, 1954 to a chief minister (Nehru’s letters to Chief Ministers, Vol. IV, edited by G Parthasarthy, New Delhi Oxford University Press, Delhi). He wrote: “There is also a new motive which previous to the partition was not present.  This is the lure of property.  In the pre-partition days, whatever communal trouble took place, no one ever thought of driving out the other party from their houses or shops.  No one ever thought of profiting by any such action.  Now this element has come in and is thought that if the Muslims in a particular area are frightened and made to leave, that property would naturally come to the Hindus”. 

Nehru’s observation is borne out by Jabalpur riots in 1961 which aimed at hounding out the Muslim bidi (mini-cigarette)  magnate from the local market. Bhiwandi (Maharashtra) riots of 1970 and 1984 were aimed at dispossessing the Muslim of their control of power loom industry. Moradabad riots of 1980 were outcome of jealousy against prosperity of Muslim brassware artisans.  Riots of 1984 in Andhra Pradesh destroyed $ 10000 worth of Muslim businesses.

Riots usually take place in urban areas, particularly in industrial cities, like Bombay, Bhewandi, Baroda,  Surat , Kanpur, Moradabad, Meerut, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bhopal. Refugee or Bengali migrants dominated areas are particularly riot prone. They occur usually at places where Muslims are numerically and economically competitive and do not reconcile with an inferior status.  No riots take place in areas with thin downtrodden Muslim population, resigned to subjugated fate because of perceived vulnerability, e.g. in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, or in the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Issues Triggering Riots. Cow slaughter (actually, if not politicized, it is a non-issue).  Hindu extremists desire to enforce a uniform civil code ostensible under Articles 44 and 48 of the Indian Constitution, but actually in violation of Articles 14 (no religious discrimination), 16 (equal opportunities for minorities), 26 to 28 (minorities freedom to manage their own religious affairs), 30 (maintaining minorities educational institutions), 345, 347, 350, 350-A (rights of linguistic minorities). Loud music and Bhajan singing before mosques.  Non-traditional routes of processions.  Reservation of jobs, and seats in educational institutions. Elopement of Hindu girls with Muslim boys. Characterisation of one by the other community as Malichh and Kafir.  Routes of Religious processions. Conversions from one religion to another.  Singing or playing Vande Matram aloud before mosques.  The de facto status of Urdu especially in Uttar Pradesh.  Muslim Personal Law and Uniform Civil Code. Suspicions about Muslims loyalty to India.  One could visualise from the past trends where the future riots would take place, and on what issues. 

Inference: Violence against Muslim protesters in North East Delhis is upshot of police apathy to accumulation of arms and BJP’s connivance. Military training in private and public schools by retired and serving soldiers engenders serious concern for Muslim safety. It caricatures Modi 2.0’s slogan sab ka vishwas (everybody’s trust).

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.